Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):

When, Exactly, Was Yeshua the Messiah BORN?

What was the year and time of year when Yeshua the Messiah was born? Millions think he was born on December 25th, Christmas day -- yet ancient history shows this was the day of worship of the birth of the SUN-GOD, Mithras! Some say he was born in 2 or 4 B.C., some say 6 or 7 B.C. But what is the truth? What does HISTORY reveal, and what does Biblical prophecy indicate?

by John D. Keyser

When was Yeshua the Messiah born? What was the year -- and the most likely month -- of his birth? These questions have been argued about for centuries, and even today there is great disagreement over them.

What is the truth? Let us carefully investigate these problems and paradoxes, and see what we can learn.

The Scriptures show us that Yeshua the Messiah was born "in the days of Herod the king" (Matthew 2:1). Herod was so fixated on the fact that wise men from the East queried him about a child born to be "King of the Jews," that he pretended that he, too, desired to worship him (Matthew 2:7-8). The wise men were warned not to return to Herod, and departed into their own country, and Joseph and Mary took Yeshua and fled to Egypt.

When the wise men did not inform Herod of where the prophesied King was, Herod "was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men" (verse 16).

Yeshua, then, had to be born at a maximum of two years before the death of Herod the Great. The gospel of Luke confirms this fact. Luke recorded, "There was in the days of Herod, king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zecharias" (Luke 1:5). During this time, the gospel continues, John the Baptist and Yeshua the Messiah were born.

A Modern View of One So-Called Scholar

An author and self-proclaimed prophet, in an article with a similar title, makes this astounding proclamation --

"With all this evidence, it becomes clear -- and plain as day -- that many who profess the name of Christ, and who believe he was born either on December 25 -- the day the pagans worshipped the "reborn sun-god" -- and celebrated the "birthday" of Sol Invictus -- are seriously in error. Also, those who believe that he was born in the fall of the year, around September-October, are equally mistaken. This new evidence clearly points to a birth in FEBRUARY, or late winter, just before spring in 4 B.C.!" (When Was Jesus Christ BORN?, p. 18).

This is a pretty radical statement regarding the time of year for the Messiah's birth -- I know of no other author or source that has come up with this outlandish reckoning! Was Yeshua the Messiah really born in February (of all times), or during the Feast of Tabernacles, as others believe? And what about the year 4 B.C.?

The Death of Herod

When Yeshua was born, the gospel of Matthew plainly says, Herod was still king, and very much alive. Yeshua was born "in the days of Herod the king" (Matthew 2:1). Herod inquired of the wise men from the east when they had first seen the "star" which heralded his birth and asked them to report back to him when they had found the child. Later, when the wise men did not return to him, he became enraged, and murdered all the children in Bethlehem under two years of age! (Matthew 2:16-18). Soon after this event, Herod died (Matthew 2:19).

What year, then, did Herod die? Let's notice the evidence. In Insight On the Scriptures, we read: "So if, as Josephus says, Herod died 37 years after his appointment by Rome and 34 years after his capture of Jerusalem, and if those years are counted in each case according to the regnal year, his death could have been in 1 B.C.E." Presenting an argument to this effect in The Journal of Theological Studies, W.E. Filmer writes that evidence from Jewish tradition indicates that Herod's death occurred on Shebat 2 (the month of Shebat falls in January-February of our calendar) ("Herod," p. 1093).

Likewise, the Date of Christ's Birth relates: "Josephus said it was 27 years to the day that Pompey committed his abominations, which he did in 63 B.C. This gives again 36 B.C. for Herod's capture of Jerusalem. If we use the common accession method of counting years of rule, the date to start his 34th year is on the first of Nisan in 35 B.C. So Herod's 34th year of rule would start with the 1st of Nisan in 2 B.C. and end with the first of Nisan in 1 B.C. Now 34 years after 35 B.C. would give 1 B.C. for the death and end of the reign of Herod..." (pages 1-2).

The Star that Astonished the World points out, "This is the war that Jewish scholars call The War of Varus. It is the war that took place in Galilee, Judaea and Idumaea JUST AFTER the death of Herod which started with the massacre of the 3000 Jewish worshippers in the temple at the Passover of 1 B.C....The War of Varus actually broke out in Palestine in 1 B.C. And at that very time, the Roman records show that the Armenians in the northeastern section of the Empire also began to stir up rebellion....Truly, Herod died in early 1 B.C. and The War of Varus took place in the Summer and Autumn of 1 B.C. with Gaius Caesar in Idumaea for the conclusion of that war" (Ernest L. martin, pp. 107, 111 and 118).

For centuries the evidence from astronomy has played a crucial role in the traditional conclusion that Herod died in the spring of 4 B.C. The date of a reported lunar eclipse, shortly before Herod's death, has been used to determine that event; unfortunately, the eclipse that most of the references have singled out was that of March 13, 4 B.C. Recent re-evaluations, however, have raised serious questions about that eclipse, and two other dates have been preferred -- January 10, 1 B.C. and September 15, 5 B.C. More on this later.

Herod was so cruel that he jealously murdered Hyrcanus, the grandfather of his favorite wife, Miriamne; then murdered Miriamne whom he passionately loved; then his two sons by her, Alexander and Aristobulus; and just five days before his own death, his oldest son, Antipater! To be sure there would be universal mourning at his own death, he ordered the deaths of all the nobles assembled around him after his decease. He was such a monster, that Augustus Caesar, upon hearing he had put to death "boys under two years" of age, an obvious reference to the innocents he had murdered at Bethlehem to prevent the birth of the Messiah, said of him, "that it were better to be Herod's swine than his son."

When did Herod die? Says the Insight On the Scriptures:

"Another line of calculation centers around the age of Herod at the time of his death. Josephus says that he was about 70 years old. He says that at the time Herod received his appointment as governor of Galilee (which is generally dated 47 B.C.E.), he was 15 years old; but this has been understood by scholars to be an error, 25 years evidently being intended. (Jewish Antiquities, XVII, 148 [vi, 1]; XIV, 158 [ix, 2]) Accordingly, Herod's death occurred in 2 or 1 B.C.E....The available evidence indicates that Herod died likely in the year 1 B.C.E." (Vol. 1, p. 1094, "Herod").

Writes Juan Antonio Revilla in his article On the Year of Herod's Death --

"Nevertheless, the proponents of the theory that Herod died in 4 B.C. keep repeating over and over again that 'Dionysius was wrong,' even though nobody has ever explained why convincingly. It is an assumption based on a false premise, because Herod did not die in 4 B.C. but in the year 1 B.C....The assertion regarding the year 4 B.C. is refutable on many grounds..." (page 5).

Also, in the article Was There a Second Census Under Quirinius That We Know Of? by Paul R. Finch, we read:

"Herod at this time [4 B.C.] changed his will and completely expunged Antipater's name from memory. It is assumed by many that shortly after this Herod died and was succeeded by Archelaus. But when Archelaus assumed power he was reckoned by Josephus as one who "had long exercised royal authority" (War II.26). Obviously, Archelaus reckoned his rule from 4 B.C. while Herod was still alive. And Herod remained alive another three years" (page 2).

And then, on page 5 of The Date of Herod's Death: The Errors Corrected, by Murrell Selden, we find --

"Based upon the writings of Josephus (which appear to be mostly accurate), the anchor date of the war between Antony and Octavius Caesar, and calculations of relevant lunar events, it appears that Herod the Great died in 1 B.C.E. (not 4 B.C.E.) though 4 B.C.E. has been favored, because it has a lunar eclipse on a fast day. But, an analysis of what Josephus said about Herod's kingships indicates the error in the thinking."

In the year Herod died there was an eclipse. Josephus records, during Herod's final year, that at the time he slew the high priest Matthias, "that very night there was an eclipse of the moon" (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XVII, VI, 4). Says the editor, William Whiston, in a footnote:

"This eclipse of the moon (which is the only eclipse mentioned by Josephus) is OF THE GREATEST CONSEQUENCE FOR THE DETERMINATION OF THE DEATH OF HEROD and Antipater, and for the BIRTH and entire chronology of JESUS CHRIST" (Anti., XVII, vi, 4, footnote).

While many assume this eclipse occurred on March 13th, 4 B.C., there is much evidence to refute this.

In the article The Date of Christ's Birth (Bible Studies at the Moorings) we find written:

"Placement of Herod's death in 1 B.C. allows us to accept the ancient tradition that Jesus was born in 3 or 2 B.C. The four earliest Christian writers who report the date of Jesus' birth are Irenaeus (late second century), Clement of Alexandria (about A.D. 200), Tertullian (early third century), and Africanus (early third century). Africanus specifies the date in terms that can be understood as 3/2 B.C. Both Irenaeus and Tertullian assign Jesus' birth to the forty-first year of Augustus. If this date presumes that the reign of Augustus began when he was elevated to consulship in August 43 B.C., the year intended is 2 B.C. [Tishri 1, 3 B.C. to Tishri 1, 2 B.C. according to the Jewish regnal dating]. Tertullian conveniently confirms this conclusion by adding that Christ's birth was 28 years after the death of Cleopatra and fifteen years before the death of Augustus. Cleopatra died in August 30 B.C., and Augustus died in August A.D. 14" (p. 2).

Further Evidence on Herod's Death

In the article by our erstwhile author and prophet, he presents the writings of Emil Schurer (A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ) to back up his claims that the death of Herod had to be in 4 B.C. Notice what Schurer says:

"1. Shortly before Herod's death an eclipse of the moon occurred (Ant., xvii, 6, 4). This only corresponds to the year B.C. 4, in which on the night of March 12-13 an eclipse of the moon took place; whereas in the years three and two B.C. in Palestine generally there was no such phenomenon...

"2. The chronology of two successors of Herod, Archelaus and Antipas, requires B.C. 4 = A.U.C. 750, as the year of Herod's death. {a} Archelaus. He was, according to Dio Cassius, Iv. 27, deposed by Augustus in the year A.U.C. 759, during the consulship of Aemilius Lepidus and L. Arruntius, in the tenth year of his reign. So also says Josephus...Hence his reign began in A.U.C. 750 [that is, 4 B.C.]. (b) Antipas. He was deposed by Caligula in the summer of A.D. 39 = A.U.C. 792. Since we still have coins of his bearing date the forty-third year of his reign, the year of the beginning of his reign must at latest have been A.U.C. 750.

"All these facts therefore yield this result, THAT HEROD DIED IN THE YEAR B.C. 4 = A.U.C. 750, SHORTLY BEFORE THE PASSOVER. This result, at least so far as it relates to the YEAR, is now accepted by most modern scholars" (Schurer, p. 465-466).

Let's examine what Mr. Schurer says. In point #1 Schurer conveniently leaves out the fact that an eclipse also occurred on January 10, 1 B.C. He also omits the eclipses of March 23, 5 B.C. and the one of September 15, 5 B.C. That sounds like stacking the cards to me!

The problems with the 4 B.C. eclipse are many. According to the Insight On the Scriptures, "That eclipse in 4 B.C.E. was of only 36-percent magnitude and would have attracted the attention of very few people at the early morning hour that it occurred." (Vol. 1, p. 455, "Chronology"). Most eclipses, except total ones, are not even noticeable to most people and cannot be seen by eyesight. Notice what D. Justin Schove says in his book Chronology of Eclipses and Comets --

"We find that the overall partial p-type [such as occurred on March 12/13, 4 B.C.] eclipses of Oppolzer were never noticed, and even the annular r-type were often missed. Most of the early records [such as Josephus] relate to eclipses THAT WERE TOTAL, either at the place of observation or within a few hundred miles of the track of totality.....Total eclipses are rare; at any one place the average is three times in a millennium..." (1984, p. x).

Regarding partial eclipses -- such as that of March 12/13, 4 B.C. -- Schove goes on to say:

"....[concerning partial eclipses] Such eclipses are more frequent than is usually supposed, for they occur about once every 2 1/2 years at any given location. However, the loss of light is smaller than heavy clouds would produce and partial eclipses usually passed unnoticed by the astronomically-unsophisticated chronicler....Astronomers, and those who have been forewarned, MAY notice an eclipse of magnitude 0.70 [70%] if they see it in a reflection, at sunset or through thin cloud or haze....The average person notices a thin solar crescent of a solar eclipse only when the magnitude reaches 0.99 [99%]" (ibid., p. xv).

What this is saying is that neither an astronomer, nor those who were forewarned, nor an average person, would see an eclipse of 36%! It would seem strange that Josephus would use such an obscure and unnoticeable eclipse as a chronological marker in his work. And even more strange when you realize that he mentions only ONE eclipse in his entire writings, period! The bottom line is that this eclipse was a non-event and definitely WAS NOT the one Josephus was referring to!

Another major problem with the March 12/13, 4 B.C. eclipse is the fact that there simply wasn't enough time between Herod's death (assuming it occurred in this year) and the following Passover to fit all the events mentioned by Josephus. He recounts a complex chain of events between the eclipse and the Passover, such as:

1/. Herod's sickness increased; part of his body putrified and bred worms.

According to Ernest L Martin, "One has to allow two or three days after the eclipse for Herod's physical deterioration to become noticeable. His physicians then tried 'one remedy after another.' (Josephus, War, I.657.) For several remedies to be practiced on Herod in order to cure him occupied at least four or five days -- a remedy for each day. The elapsed time for these events would reasonably occupy (at a bare minimum): ONE WEEK" (The Star that Astonished the World, pp. 75-76).

2/. He was taken at least ten miles to warm baths and returned when treatment failed.

According to Josephus these various remedies performed on Herod failed to halt his deteriorating condition. Writes Martin, "The physicians then recommended that he leave Jericho...and retreat to the mineral baths at Callirrhoe. These baths were located on the Dead Sea about 25 miles southeast of Jericho....Since he was very ill -- and getting worse -- it would have taken at least a day for him to have been carefully transported to the baths -- probably longer. He then began a period of treatment using the mineral waters. The therapy certainly took two or three days to give the chemicals in the waters a chance to work. But the use of the baths gave Herod no sign of inproving his condition. He then ordered his attendants to carry him back to Jericho. The elapsed time for these events associated with taking Herod to the baths of Callirrhoe and returning to Jericho would have occupied at least ONE WEEK..." (ibid., p. 76). The elapsed time from the eclipse would now be TWO WEEKS.

3/. He ordered important men to come from every village in the nation (up to 130 miles); they arrived.

"It was during his fatal sickness that he ordered the slaughter of his scheming son Antipater. Also, knowing that the Jews would rejoice upon hearing of his own death, Herod commanded the most illustrious men of the Jewish nation to gather at a place called the Hippodrome, at Jericho, and there had them shut in. He then gave a command to those near him that, when he died, the news of his death should not be announced until these Jewish leaders were first killed. Then, said he, every family in Judea would certainly weep at his funeral. This order was never carried out" (Insight On the Scriptures, pp. 1092-93, "Herod").

Adds Ernest Martin --

"This heinous plan was put into action. Messengers were sent from Jericho to all parts of Herod's realm bearing orders for the elders of the cities and villages to appear at Jericho on pain of death for their refusal. Since the northern cities of Herod's kingdom were at least 130 miles away, a period of 3 days for the couriers to reach the elders [remember, they didn't have telegraph or telephones in those days!], a day or so for them to prepare for the trip, and then 3 or 4 days for the elders to reach Jericho would occupy, at the very least, a week's time...The elapsed time for this assemblage of elders was at the very least ONE WEEK..." (The Star that Astonshed the World, pp. 76-77).

The elapsed time from the eclipse would now be THREE WEEKS.

4/. Herod's son Antipater was executed and Herod died five days later (on or after the first day of his 34th regnal year -- probably March 29 if a 4 B.C. death is assumed).

Records Josephus: "Hereupon Herod, who had formerly no affection nor good-will towards his son to restrain him, when he heard what the jailer said...sent for some of his guards, and comanded them to kill Antipater without any further delay, and to do it presently, and to bury him in an ignoble manner at Hyrcania....When he had done those things, he died, the fifth day after he had caused Antipater to be slain..." (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVII, chap. VII & chap. VIII, 1).

Notes Martin -- "...letters came from Augustus in Rome giving Herod permission to kill his son Antipater. The king had him executed immediately and Herod died 5 days later....The elapsed time for these events would reasonably occupy 5 to 7 days..." (TSTATW, p. 77). The elapsed time from the eclipse would now be FOUR WEEKS.

5/. A magnificent funeral was planned and held for Herod, whose body was carried about 25 miles and then buried.

Josephus gives an extensive account of the funeral "celebration," which throws the possibility of the March 12/13, 4 B.C. eclipse being the one Josephus intended right out the window! A funeral procession carried the embalmed body some 25 miles to the burial site. Walking in bare feet, as required in mourning, and covering only one mile each day, this event alone would have taken 25 days -- almost 4 weeks! William Whiston, a translator of Josephus' writings, states in a footnote that "At eight stadia or furlongs a day, Herod's funeral, conducted to Herodium, which lay at the distance from Jericho, where he died, of 200 stadia or furlongs, MUST HAVE TAKEN NO LESS THAN TWENTY-FIVE DAYS" (The Complete Works of Josephus, footnote p. 367).

On top of this, we have to allow time for the funeral preparations, the embalming of Herod's body and the arrival of foreign guests from around the Empire and surrounding countries. There is also the mourning periods to take into account. Writes Ernest Martin --

"These necessary religious ceremonies show that just over a FOUR WEEK period elapsed from the death of Herod until he was finally buried at the Herodian. Note the periods of public and private mourning. This point is a very significant factor in determining the interval of time between Herod's death and his burial. The fact is, there were two types of mourning periods that were accomplished at the death of a king or someone who was of national prestige...the first was a public mourning period of THIRTY DAYS begun immediately after the death of an important person (Numbers 20:29; Deuteronomy 34:8). There was also a further SEVEN DAYS mourning period for the close relatives which took place AFTER THE BURIAL (Numbers 19:14)" (TSTATW, p. 86).

Since the funeral itself would have taken place during the mourning period, the 25 days should not be added to the 30. The elapsed time from the eclipse would now be EIGHT WEEKS.

6/. A 7-day mourning began, followed by a funeral feast.

As mentioned above, a 7-day private mourning period went into effect after the 30-day public mourning period. "Once Herod was buried, then Archelaus and the immediate family had to undergo their further seven days private mourning period. After those seven days, a funeral feast was then ordered by Archelaus for the people of Jerusalem. This would mean that the public mourning period (called the Sheloshim) and also Archelaus' private mourning period, as well as the funeral feast would have been concluded (at the bare minimum) about NINE WEEKS after the eclipse of the Moon, probably a little longer" (ibid., p. 86). The elapsed time from the eclipse would now be NINE WEEKS.

7/. Archelaus assumed full kingship and carried out numerous activities before Passover.

Josephus records a number of other things that took place in Jerusalem BEFORE the Passover occurred that year. We are told that word of Herod's death had reached Rome, and a Roman legate was dispatched to protect the royal treasury before the crowning of his successor. The legate apparently was present at the installation of Herod's son Archelaus, who also had time to issue several decrees before the Passover season. Explains Martin --

"He [Archelaus] gave audience to the people as a king. He made changes in the duties of army personnel and he conferred promotions on numerous officers. He also took time to liberate many prisoners confined by his father, and publicly heard and made decisions on a number of lawsuits occurring in the courts...Nicolas of Damascus (whom Josephus was quoting) said Archelaus did these official duties 'and many other things' between the time when all the public and private mourning periods and the funeral feast were completed and when the beginning of the Passover season took place. Sheer reason would have to allow a minimum of ONE WEEK for these official duties of Archelaus to have taken place when he resumed his normal executive activities. And after all these requirements were met by Archelaus and the general population, then came the Passover" (ibid., pp. 86-87).

The elapsed time from the eclipse would now be TEN WEEKS.

However, these figures are very conservative and, to be reasonable, one has to admit that a few days more would make the historical scenario fit much better and allow a more realistic timetable. Therefore, the interval of time was more than likely near TWELVE WEEKS. Since lunar eclipses can only take place at Full Moon, the interval between the Full Moon day of March 12/13, 4 B.C. to the beginning of Passover in 4 B.C. (the next Full Moon day) is an interval of only 29 DAYS on the Jewish calendar! I think you can see the problem -- there is absolutely no way, shape or form that all these events associated with Herod's death and funeral can possibly be squeezed into a 29-day time-frame!

While we are still on the topic of the March 12/13, 4 B.C. eclipse, there are a number of other considerations to address. The traditional date for the death of Herod is Shebat 2, which was the 11th month in the Jewish calendar. The eclipse of March 12/13, 4 B.C. would have occurred on Adar 14, the 12th Month. Therefore, the eclipse would have taken place approximately six weeks AFTER Herod's traditional date of death. Another obvious contradiction.

Also, the events mentioned in Josephus are associated with an annual Jewish FAST. The annual Jewish fasts only occurred in months four, five, seven and ten! Since the eclipse of March 12/13, 4 B.C. took place in the 12TH MONTH, it obviously does not correlate with any of the fasts and has to be eliminated as the one Josephus was referring to.

To summarize:

"First century historian Flavius Josephus gives an extensive account of events surrounding the death of Herod. The narrative begins with a lunar eclipse, followed by Herod's death and funeral, and his son's accession to the throne before Passover. A lunar eclipse in 4 BCE on March 13 was thought to be the first event, with Passover following 29 days later. But, let's re-examine this scenario. First of all, the eclipse was only 40% total [36%, actually] -- hardly spectacular. A messenger from Rome arrived some 5 days before Herod's death, but after the eclipse (which coincided with some political executions ordered by Herod).

"Second, Josephus gives an extensive account of the funeral 'celebration' which makes this seem even less likely. A funeral procession carried the embalmed body some 25 miles to the burial site. Walking in bare feet, as required in mourning, and covering only 1 mile each day. We are told that word of Herod's death had reached Rome, and a Roman legate was dispatched to protect the royal treasury before the crowning of his successor. The legate apparently was present at the installation of Herod's son Archelaus, who also had time to issue several decrees before the Passover...10 weeks [probably more like 12] would have been required for all the events surrounding the death and funeral to be accomplished, not a mere 29 days if the 4 BCE scenario is to be believed" (George F. Spagna, Jr., What Star is This? -- Some Thoughts On the Star of Bethlehem, pp. 1-2).

What About the Other Eclipses?

It is not difficult to figure out which eclipse Josephus was referring to if we eliminate all the unqualified lunar eclipses that were seen in Palestine from 7 B.C. to early 1 B.C. We have already shown that it is impossible to squeeze all the events mentioned by Josephus from his lunar eclipse to the next Passover season into a 29-day period that the March 12/13, 4 B.C. eclipse demands. So let us look elsewhere.

There were four eclipses in 7 B.C. -- all of which were Penumbral. Since Penumbral eclipses are even harder to see than partials, we can erase this year from the slate. In 6 B.C. there were two eclipses, both partials. So this year comes off the slate. There were two total eclipses in 5 B.C., so let's take a closer look at these. There was an eclipse on March 23, 5 B.C. This eclipse, however, suffers from most of the same problems plaguing the eclipse of March 12/13, 4 B.C.! There were still only 29 days between March 23 and the Passover of 5 B.C. and no time for all the intervening events surrounding Herod's death. Writes Ernest Martin --

"And besides, early 5 B.C. for the death of Herod plays havoc with all the chronological indications of Josephus and Roman records regarding the period of Herod's death. Why even the scholars now have to add an extra year to Herod's reign of 34 years from Antigonus' death (reckoning only two or three days of Nisan in 4 B.C. as a whole year) to make any reasonable sense out of their calculations. A 5 B.C. date would cause utter chaos in the records of Josephus" (The Star that Astonished the World, pp. 98-99).

That takes care of early 5 B.C. So what about the one later in the year -- September 15, 5 B.C.? If this was the eclipse mentioned by Josephus, then seven months would have passed before the next Passover. This is way too long for all the events surrounding Herod's death to have taken place. But there is another point -- notice!

"Herod was in Jericho when the eclipse near his death occurred. The city is a furnace in late summer. It is situated just over 800 feet (c. 240 meters) below sea level and its mid-September temperatures are very high [remember -- they didn't have air conditioning in those days!]. Why would Herod who was uncomfortably ill at the time, subject himself to such oppressive conditions in the Jordan Valley when the pleasant environment of Jerusalem was so near? It might be added, however, that if the eclipse were in the depth of Winter, one could easily understand Herod's wish to be in Jericho" (ibid., pp. 99-100).

So -- for another very good reason -- the eclipse of September 15, 5 B.C. fails the test. There is yet another reason involving the priest Matthias being deposed from office by Herod but, since this is rather involved, we will skip it at this point.

The facts of history are certain on these matters -- the eclipse of September 15, 5 B.C. completely fails as a candidate for the eclipse mentioned by Josephus!

So where do we go from here? There were two eclipses in 4 B.C. -- the one on March 12/13 has already been eliminated. The remaining one occurred on September 5, and has to be wiped off the slate due to it being a partial eclipse -- plus the fact that there was too much time between Herod's death and the Passover. In 3 B.C. there were a total of four eclipses -- all of them Penumbral and not visible in Palestine. That brings us to 2 B.C. There were two of them in this year, both partials and also not visible in Palestine. So that brings us down to 1 B.C. What about this year?

The Eclipse of January 9/10, 1 B.C.

There were three eclipses in 1 B.C. -- two totals and one partial. However, the one of January 9/10 has to be the one mentioned by Josephus. All the events surrounding Herod's death fit comfortably into the time-frame between this eclipse and the following Passover -- and ONLY with this eclipse, as we shall see.

Recognizing that the January 9/10, 1 B.C. is the one mentioned by Josephus, scholars have wondered for some time why Josephus picked this one eclipse out of the hundreds that occurred over the number of years that are covered by his histories. Why single out this one? One reason was mentioned by D. Justin Schove in his book Chronology of Eclipses and Comets: "Total eclipses are RARE; at any one place the average is three times in a millennium" (1984, p. x). This, in itself, would have been a good reason for Josephus to mention this particular eclipse -- it would have been a momentous event in that part of the country, which everybody would have seen and commented on.

The eclipse of January 9/10, 1 B.C. is listed as eclipse #1,860 in Theodor Oppolozer's Canon of Eclipses (Dover, New York, 1962). That eclipse, according to John Pratt (Ph. D in Astronomy), was listed as total for 51 minutes near midnight and centered over 15 degrees east longitude -- which is perfect for having been observed in Jerusalem. The only other eclipse to consider for that year occurred on July 5, but it was over the Pacific Ocean and not viewable in Jerusalem.

The Fast of Tebeth

Further, there was a fast in the month of Tebeth on the 10th of the sacred calendar. It so happened that Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Jerusalem on this date and completed it 18 months later on Tammuz 9. There were four annual fasts and a special year-end fast (Adar 14-15) of the Jews as follows --

1). Tammuz 9, Fast of the 4th Month, Part of June or July

2). Ab 10, Fast of the 5th Month, Part of July or August

3). Tishri 15, Fast of the 7th Month, Part of September or October

4). Tebeth 10, Fast of the 10th Month, Part of December or January

5). Adar 14, 15, Fast of the 12th Month, Part of February or March

There were also two other days in which no mourning was permitted. These days are mentioned in a Jewish document called the Megillath Taanith (Scroll of Fasting) which was composed shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. One day was on Kislev 7, which corresponds, in most years, with our December. The other day mentioned in the scroll was Shebat 2, which corresponds to our late January or early February. These were days in which no mourning was allowed.

Now, the events mentioned in Josephus, regarding Herod's death, were associated with an annual Jewish FAST. The eclipse of January 9/10 fell on Tebeth 14, and we can see from the above information that this was just a few days after the Fast of the 10th Month (Tebeth 10). This fits perfectly with the general history that Herod died shortly after an eclipse occurring during the month of a fast, but slightly before Passover (about 10 weeks before) which is enough time for all the events described by Josephus to have taken place.

No one seems to know why the two days of feasting in the Scroll of Fasting are were commemorated, yet they must have been days of joy ordained before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The question is: What did they honor? Explains Ernest Martin --

"An early Jewish commentator who probably lived in the seventh century wrote a brief remark to Kislev 7 (December 5th): 'The day of Herod's death.' However, M. Moise Schwab, who studied the information about the scroll [the Megillath Taanith] very extensively, felt that it was really the second of the days, SHEBAT 2 (JANUARY 28TH) that was the actual day commemorating Herod's death. And interestingly, this latter date fits remarkably well with the January 10 eclipse of Josephus. Herod's death on this very day would have occurred 18 days after the eclipse. All the information in Josephus about Herod's activities between the eclipse and his death fit compatibility with the chronological facts" (TSTATW, p.102).

As mentioned above, Shebat 2 is one of the undesignated Jewish festival days mentioned in the Megillath Taanith scroll -- and the fact that Schwab indicates that it points to the day of Herod's death makes perfect sense. Josephus records that Herod himself said "I know well enough that the Jews will keep a FESTIVAL upon my death..." (Wars of the Jews, Book 1, Chap. XXXIII, 6). Shebat 2 fits the historical timetable perfectly, and the events Josephus recorded between Herod's death and the next Passover fit chronologically in a fluent and logical fashion. The other commemorative days likely are for the day the golden eagle was torn down from the eastern portal of the Temple (Kislev 7); and the day the rabbis were tried and sentenced for their part in tearing down the golden eagle (Tebeth 9).

The War of Quintilius Varus

In the Res Gestae Augustus mentions that he had been steadily discharging many of his soldiers and giving them large bonuses from 7 to 2 B.C. During this six-year period there were no major wars involving Roman troops while this discharging of the military was taking place. And even though Augustus relates that there was a temporary respite from the discharging in 5 B.C., from 4 B.C. to (and including) 2 B.C. the demobilization of the Roman military continued without stop.

Sir Ronald Syme, in The Crisis of 2 B.C., states that this period was so peaceful that the third closing of the temple doors of the god Janus took place during this time. Notes Ernest Martin, "this was a sign that peace was then in the Empire. And with the steady demobilization of the legionaries from 7 to 2 B.C. (with the exception of 5 B.C.), it surely indicates a time of peace and harmony within the Empire" (TSTATW, p. 110).

Those ministers and scholars who place Herod's death in early 4 B.C. have a problem -- they also have to place the War of Varus in the summer of 4 B.C. since the two are closely linked together time-wise. The problem with this is the fact that the summer of 4 B.C. was during the time of the "Augustan peace." Notes Ernest Martin -- "They have had to do so because of their erroneous selection of the March 13, 4 B.C. eclipse of the Moon as that associated with the death of Herod. But this is nonsense and this makes the Roman records THREE YEARS OUT OF PHASE with reality" (TSTATW, p. 111).

With the correct selection of the January 9/10, 1 B.C. eclipse, we find that a major Roman/Jewish war took place in the Summer and Autumn of 1 B.C. as a result of Herod's death and the massacre of the 3,000 Jewish worshippers in the Temple during the Passover of 1 B.C.

In January, 1 B.C., Herod put to death two popular rabbis who had encouraged about 40 young men to pull down the Roman Eagle insignia placed by Herod over the Eastern gate of the Temple. These rabbis were burnt alive by Herod’s order, though  the youths got off with milder punishments.

This occurred in the year 1 B.C., (not 4 B.C. as many theologians and historians incorrectly assert). Herod’s order to put the two popular rabbis to death for instigating the youths has a Messianic side to it. It appears these two rabbis -- and many in Judaism -- believed the time of Herod’s death had arrived and the commencement of a special era in which the Jews would be exalted over their enemies.

There are several interesting facts which demonstrate that the events surrounding this issue was indeed due to Jewish “Messianic expectation”. It makes sense that it would be. “All of Jerusalem” had been troubled at the Magi’s visit. These men were counselors of state to kings. Their arrival and testimony, and their interest in the Star aroused all of Jerusalem. The slaughter of the Innocents of Bethlehem was also known, as Matthew records (Matthew 2:16-18).

This Roman/Jewish war, known as the War of Varus, involved about 20,000 men of the regular Roman military forces in the province of Syria -- some three legions plus auxiliaries and allied troops. This war against the Jews was conducted by the governor of Syria, Quintilius Varus, and took place in Galilee, Judaea and Idumaea. It was a MAJOR WAR that prompted the awarding of an "imperial acclamation" to the Roman emperor of the time at its satisfactory conclusion. This war was so serious that the grandson of Augustus, Gaius Caesar, was hurredly dispatched from Rome to Syria "under the stress of necessity" to put it down.

Gaius and the Legions of Quintilius Varus of Syria (about 20,000 soldiers) invaded Palestine from several directions, all under the authority of Gaius. The spark for the attack was the fact that the Passover was cancelled when 3000 Jews were slaughtered by Archelaus in the precincts of the Temple after engaging in massive protests against the killing of the two popular Rabbis and the expectant Messianic hope. Gaius Caesar won the War of Varus that ensued (a war that was the direct result of the death of the rabbis).

There is simply no Roman records or testimony -- whether it be literature, coins or inscriptions -- that would place such a major war in 4 B.C. -- right in the middle of the "Augustan peace"! But if this war is correctly dated three years later to 1 B.C., we find many important Roman references to it. While Varus successfully quelled the rebellion in Galilee and Judaea, it required the help of Gaius Caesar to put down the fighting in Idumaea. Writes Martin: "There were 10,000 Jewish insurgents in the area that had to be pacified. And note this. This last bit of 'mopping up' operations, as our new chronological reconstruction shows, occurred in the Autumn of 1 B.C. This would have been the exact time that Gaius Caesar was in the region securing those victories that brought him fame" (ibid., p. 114).

There is an historical document -- The Assumption of Moses -- that now makes sense, whereas before it was a puzzle to those who placed Herod's death in 4 B.C. This eyewitness account of The War of Varus discusses the person who secured the victory, and the Jewish writer of the account (who lived in Judaea) stated that the war was conducted by a "king" who had come from the west to gain the victory. Explains Martin --

"The reference has normally been applied to Quintilius Varus because historians up to now have assumed the war mentioned by this Jewish writer took place in 4 B.C. This, of course, was three years BEFORE Gaius Caesar arrived on the scene in late 1 B.C. But now we know that Gaius was in this very region at the conclusion of The War of Varus. And much truer to the Jewish author's acccount, Gaius had come directly from the west to end the war and he had all the credentials to be called a "king." Varus hardly fits the account. The Roman governor was not a "king" and he came from the north, not the west! Even this reference is helpful in showing that The War of Varus ended in 1 B.C. and that Gaius ("a king") was there to help in the "mopping up" operations" (ibid., p. 115).

There is an inscription -- even more significant in determining the true eclipse and death of Herod -- that was uncovered in Greece in 1960. This inscription mentions the activities of Gaius while he was on his military mission to the east. It mentions great victories but does not specify exactly what they were. What was written on this inscription, however, has an important bearing on fixing the correct date for the death of Herod. It states, "Gaius, the son of Augustus, who was fighting the barbarians for the safety of all mankind…” The safety of all mankind! Why such “dire consequences”, i.e., ALL MANKIND?  Wasn’t that a bit of  an overreaction?  No. It was not. The Romans took seriously the claims, known to the ancient world:

1) The world watched for a future “deliverer”.

2) The “Deliverer” would be the true herald of  peace, truth and the “will of God”.

3) The Jews were known to be associated with that peculiar promise. Furthermore, they actively taught such a truth and believed it  themselves.

This inscription is augmented by a book dedicated to him by the celebrated King Juba of Mauritania on the occasion of this victory. The Pisan Cenotaph inscription also confirms that this victory was won by Gaius “beyond the frontiers of the Empire”, which fits the Idumea of Herod’s domain well. This victory was no light thing to the  Romans. Victory meant, to the Romans, a vindication of  their “messianic” calling from the beginning of their history (their reason for being “conquerors”). Theirs was the “true civilization”. All else was “barbaric”. This sentiment is  not unlike the reaction of today’s atheists and  humanists who rejoice at any legal or social victory over Christianity, as if YEHOVAH God is thus “proven” to not exist!

Furthermore, there were certain occurrences that show the Messianism of this brief epoch:

1/. The sudden attempt to pull down the Imperial Eagle at the Temple, reflects the reward from YEHOVAH God felt by the rabbis. This is seen in their assertion that NOW was the time to act and to gain “lasting fame and commemoration.”  

2/. The Romans never took Palestine “lightly” despite its small size. They knew that it  was generally taught that the Messiah would be born in Judea, Palestine. Note that is the way the Magi, as foreign dignitaries, expected things to settle.

3/. Not long before the War of Varus (summer-autumn, 1 B.C.) over 6000 Pharisees predicted the end of Herod’s house, initiating the era of the Messiah.

4/. NOW…there was a Star, Bethlehem, magi, a troubled Jerusalem, prophecies from the Bible (Micah was cited directly in Herod’s Court) and Messianic hope among the Jewish people. It was NOT an exaggeration to the mind of the Romans to treat this seriously. It WAS Roman belief that all others (except Rome and the Greeks) were barbaric, including the Jews. The Romans believed the religion of the Jews to be barbaric. According to the Romans, Rome alone had the way, the truth and the light. No one else need apply!

5/. Josephus tells us that from this time forward, there were several unstable individuals who made claims about being the Messiah.
6/. All of this explains the reason the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and others, were so concerned about claimants calling themselves the promised “Messiah”. They really pressured John the Baptist since his “everyone was in expectation”. He promised the coming of the Messiah and that promise was the occasion for vast crowds to assemble. The Jewish leadership assembled and pressured any public figure because The War of Varus had been so terrible that if anything again Messianic were to show up in Judea, it could spark another war, the last thing the Jewish leadership wanted.

The War of Varus led to the humbling of Judea, with Gaius crucifying 2000 Jews and sending another 30,000 into slavery. It presents but one chapter in the ongoing struggle of Christianity and the attempts of Satan to destroy the Messiah.

For these reasons alone, no other eclipse before or after the one of January 9/10, 1 B.C. need be considered as the one recorded by Josephus.

The Census of Luke 2:1-5

This census (registration) is mentioned only by Luke and Tertullian (Augustus wrote an account of the major events of his life; he wrote of official censuses in 28 B.C., 8 B.C., and 14 A.D., but nothing of the year in discussion, yet Luke said the whole Roman world was involved).

The year 2 B.C. was one of the most important in the career of Augustus, as he was sixty years old and it was the Silver Jubilee of his rule (begun in 27 B.C.; it was also the 750th anniversary of the founding of Rome).

On February 5, 2 B.C., the Senate and the people of Rome awarded him the highest of all decorations: Pater Patriae (Father of the Country).

There was no year like it for celebrations in Rome, and the festivities and celebrations encompassed the Empire in its entirety (the provinces).

Augustus knew beforehand of the special honor, and issued an "edict" calling for a fresh registration of all who lived within the borders of the greater Empire (Luke 2:1-5).

The purpose of this registration was to secure an oath of allegiance to Caesar Augustus in his Jubilee year.

Josephus mentioned that an oath of allegiance was demanded by Augustus about twelve or fifteen months before the death of Herod (Antiquities, XVII, 41-45):

"There was moreover a certain sect of Jews who valued themselves highly for their exact knowledge of the law; and talking much of their contact with God, were greatly in favor with the women [of Herod's court]. They are called Pharisees. They are men who had it in their power to control kings; extremely subtle, and ready to attempt anything against those whom they did not like. When therefore the whole Jewish nation took an OATH to be faithful to Caesar, and [to] the interests of the king, these men, to the number of above six thousand, refused to swear. The king laid a fine upon them. Pheroras' wife [Herod's sister-in-law] paid the money for them.

Continuing, Josephus says:

"They, in requital for her kindness [for they were supposed, by their great intimacy with God, to have attained to the gift of prophecy], prophesied that God having decreed to put an end to the government of Herod and his race, the kingdom would be transferred to her and Pheroras and their children. Salome [Herod's sister], who was aware of all that was being said, came and told the king of them. She also told him that many of the court [of Herod] were corrupted by them. Then the king put to death the most guilty of the Pharisees, and Bagoas the eunuch, and one Carus, the most beautiful young man about the court, and the great instrument in the king's unlawful pleasures. He [Herod] likewise slew everyone in his own family, who adhered to those things which were said by the Pharisee. But Bagoas had been elevated by them and was told that he should someday be called father and benefactor of the [new] king, who was to be appointed according to their prediction, for this king would have all things in his power, and that he [the king] would give him [Bogoas] the capacity of marriage, and of having children of his own").

Various authors have suggested that this "oath of allegiance" and the census mentioned by Luke are one and the same (Lewin, Fasti Sacri, and more recently P. W. Barnett, Expository Times, 85 {1973-74}, pps. 377-380).

An inscription with such an oath of obedience has been found in Paphlagonia, and is clearly dated to 3 B.C. (Lewis & Reinhold, Roman Civilization, vol. II, pps. 34 and 35, Harper Torchbooks Edition has these words, "taken by the inhabitants of Paphlagonia and the Roman businessmen dwelling among them", and importantly, the whole of the population were required to swear it: "The same oath was sworn by all the people in the land at the altars of Augustus in the temples of Augustus in the various districts").

Augustus received his most prestigious title, the Pater Patriae, on February 5, 2 B.C., and wrote of it in his Res Gestae: "While I was administering my thirteenth consulship the senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my Country" (VI, 35).

Since most people in Judaea and the Empire were not Roman citizens, Augustus could have decreed in 3 B.C. that everyone should swear an oath of absolute obedience to him to accompany his award as being "Father of the Country".

The inscriptional oath found in Paphlagonia, the oath mentioned by Josephus, and the census of Luke are one and the same.

The Armenian historian, Moses of Khorene, said that the native sources he had available showed that in the second year of Abgar, king of Armenia (3 B.C.), the census brought Roman agents "to Armenia, bringing the image of Augustus Caesar, which they set up in every temple" (History of the Armenians, trans. R. W. Thomson, Book II, 26).

One Orosius, who lived in the fifth century and quoted early sources, wrote:

"[Augustus] ordered that a census be taken of each province everywhere and that all men be enrolled...This is the earliest and most famous public acknowledgment which marked Caesar as the first of all men and the Romans as lords of the world, a published list of all men entered individually...This first and greatest census was taken, since in this one name of Caesar all the peoples of the great nations took oath, and at the same time, through the participation in the census, were made a part of one society" (VI, 22 and VII, 2; he also identified the year as 3 B.C.).

The fact that oaths and censuses should go together should be no strange thing, as most Roman census declarations required an oath of allegiance to the emperor, as in the example of one such declaration of property tax ended with: "We swear by the fortune of the Emperor Caesar Trajanus Hadrian Augustus...under oath" (Lewis & Reinhold, vol. II, pg. 387); and "I swear by Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus that I have kept nothing back" (ibid., pg. 388).

It thus seems highly probable that all in the Empire registered an oath of obedience and an approval of the Pater Patrae to Augustus at this time and that Quirinius had been sent to the East to conduct it.

It is reasonable that a period of about a year was allowed for complete enrollment, thus beginning the registration of 3 B.C., in plenty of time for the celebrations in 2 B.C. when the title became official.

That the registration was not for the purpose of taxation is seen by the fact that as long as King Herod was alive, no taxes were paid to Rome -- rather they were paid directly to Herod (immediately upon Herod's death, the Jews asked Archelaus (Herod's successor) to relieve them of excessive taxes (Antiquities, XVII, 205)). Had the Jews been paying taxes directly to Rome brought about by the census of Quirinius, this request would have been irrelevant. From 63 B.C. to 47 B.C. Judea was part of the province of Syria and paid tribute directly to Rome. From 47 B.C. to 40 B.C. Hyrcanus was the "ruler of the free republic" (Antiquities, XIV, 117), but the Jews still paid direct taxes to Rome. When Herod became king, however, the tribute to Rome ceased and Herod collected all the taxes. This continued until 6/7 A.D. when direct taxation was again imposed in Judea (see P. C. Sands, The Client Princes of the Roman Empire, pps. 222-228).

Official censuses involving taxation took place every 20 years (in 28 B.C. and 8 B.C.), but the next official census was in 14 A.D., which was 21 years after 8 B.C. and not 20 as one would expect. Could it be that 2 B.C. was dropped out of the yearly taxation in celebration of Augustus' Silver Jubilee?

The year 2 B.C., however, was reckoned so glorious a new beginning for Augustus and Rome that the imperial taxation and evaluation ceased during that year if people would give their oath of allegiance to Augustus as their Pater Patriae and universal lord. This could well be the case and explain the 1-year discrepancy (by the way, every five years there was a registration which updated individual Roman citizenship, and these archives were kept in their own native cities or other important "Roman centers" throughout the Empire (see Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, pps. 147ff)).

In 3 B.C. Quirinius was special governor during the time of the governorship of Saturninus, who was responsible for conducting the special census concerning the Pater Patriae for Augustus.

The oath of loyalty issued by Augustus in 3 B.C. brought Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to their native city of Bethlehem.

[a] Mary normally would not have needed to go with Joseph, but since both were royal claimants, both had to appear in person and sign the document.

[b] All "royal claimants" would have especially been singled out to take the oath.

[c] Luke tells us that the reason why both Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem was because he was reckoned as belonging to the house of David, and of course, so was Mary (Luke 2:4).

The census of 3 B.C. is the only census after the one in 8 B.C., and most would consider 8 B.C. as too early for the birth of the Messiah.

What Most Early Historians Say

Most early Christian historians and chronologers -- who lived from the 2nd century onward -- put the birth of the Messiah AFTER the eclipse of 4 B.C.

Notice what Irenaeus  (early 2nd century -- c. A.D. 202) says in his work, Against Heresies --

"Our Lord was born about the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus" (3.21.3).

Using the chronology referred to by Tertullian, it is shown that the forty-first year of Augustus was 3/2 B.C. -- and it is therefore at this date that Irenaeus places the birth of the Messiah.

Irenaeus, referred to by some as Saint Irenaeus, was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire (now LyonsFrance). He was an early Church Father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. He was a hearer of Polycarp, who in turn was traditionally a disciple of John the Evangelist.

In the Stromata -- written around 194 A.D. -- Clement of Alexandria states: "And our Lord was born in the twenty-eighth year...in the reign of Augustus" (1.21.145). In the same passage he also says very precisely, "From the birth of Christ...to the death of Commodus are, in all, 194 years, one month, thirteen days." The emperor Commodus was murdered on December 31, A.D. 192. From January 1, 2 B.C., to December 31, A.D. 192, is 194 years. One month and 13 days before that is November 18, 3 B.C. This is where Clement places the birth of the Messiah. This date was in the 28th year of the Egyptian reign of Augustus. According to the usual reckoning of the years of Augustus' rule in Egypt, his 28th year was from August 29, 3 B.C., to August 28, 2 B.C. -- and this is the year here indicated by Clement.

Tertullian, mentioned above,  wrote a treatise in A.D. 198 entitled An Answer to the Jews in which he made the following statement:

"After Cleopatra, Augustus reigned forty-three years.
All the years of the empire of Augustus were fifty-six years.
In the forty-first year of the empire of Augustus, when he has been reigning for twenty-eight years after the death of Cleopatra, the Christ is born.
And the same Augustus survived, after Christ is born, fifteen years."

Explains Jack Finegan in the Handbook of Biblical Chronology,

"after the death of Cleopatra Augustus reigned almost exactly forty-three factual years in Egypt as well as forty-three Egyptian calendar years according to the accession-year system. In Rome, after the part year in which Julius Caesar died and before the part year in which he himself died, Augustus reigned fifty-six full calendar years. By the reckoning just indicated the forty-first year of Augustus was the year 3 B.C.; the twenty-eighth Egyptian year was 3/2 B.C. After the year 3 B.C. = A.U.C. 751, fifteen full years of reign remained, namely A.U.C. 752-766 or 2 B.C. - A.D. 13; after the twenty-eighth Egyptian year there were fifteen years remaining, namely the twenty-ninth to the forty-third inclusive. Accordingly, Tertullian's date for the forty-first year of Augustus and the birth of Jesus is 3/2 B.C." (p. 288).

Going now to Julius Africanus (A.D. c. 170 - c. 240) and Hippolytus of Rome (A.D. c. 170 - 236) we find that they also place the birth of the Messiah in 3/2 B.C. -- Africanus in his Chronographies and Hippolytus in his Chronicle, although the latter shows this as the year 5502 from Adam.

Origen (A.D. c. 185 - c. 253), scholar and early Christian theologian who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria, was a prolific writer in multiple branches of theology, including textual criticismbiblical exegesis and hermeneutics, philosophical theologypreaching, and spirituality. Before he left Alexandria for Caesarea in A.D. 231, Origen had written some of his Homilies on Luke -- the rest he completed in Caesarea. In a Greek fragment of his Homilies, he states that the Messiah was born in the 41st year of Caesar Augustus, that Augustus reigned 56 years -- and that after the birth of the Messiah there remained 15 years. Since his figures are the same as those of Tertullian, this gives the same result -- namely, 3/2 B.C.

Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. c. 325), a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist, he became the Bishop of Caesarea about the year 314 A.D. He was a scholar of the Biblical canon and is regarded as an extremely well learned Christian of his time. He wrote Demonstrations of the GospelPreparations for the Gospel, and On Discrepancies Between the Gospels, and studies of the Biblical text. As "Father of Church History" he produced the Ecclesiastical HistoryOn the Life of Pamphilus, the Chronicle and On the Martyrs. In his Church History he wrote --

"It was, then, the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus, and the twenty-eighth year after the submission of Egypt and the death of Antony and Cleopatra...when our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ...was born" (1.5.2).

We also find stated in his Chronicle (as translated by Jerome) that Augustus reigned 56 years and 6 months, and that the birth of the Messiah is placed in the 42nd year of Augustus. This can be explained that Eusebius simply placed the first year of Augustus one year earlier -- making the year here in question the 42nd rather than the 41st of Augustus.  As already established, the year was 3/2 B.C.

Finally, Epiphanius of Salamis (A.D. c. 315 - 403), known for his learning, was consecrated Bishop of Salamis, Cyprus in 365 or 367 -- a post which he held until his death. He was also the Metropolitan of the Church of Cyprus. He served as bishop for nearly forty years, as well as traveling widely to combat unorthodox beliefs. He was present at a synod in Antioch (376) where the Trinitarian questions were debated against the heresy of Apollinarianism. He upheld the position of Bishop Paulinus, who had the support of Rome, over that of Meletius of Antioch, who was supported by the Eastern Churches. In 382 he was present at the Council of Rome, again upholding the cause of Paulinus. Writes Jack Finegan:

"In his Panarion or 'medicine chest' for the healing of all heresies, he states, like Eusebius, that Augustus reigned fifty-six years and six months, and that Jesus was born in his forty-second year. He also says that this was the year when the consuls were Octavian for the thirteenth time and Silvanus (Panarion 51.22.3; for his list of consuls see 51.22.24). This indicates, therefore, the year 2 B.C., when the consul listing is: Augusto XIII et Silvano. Epiphanius is in agreement, therefore, with the preceding sources in the date of 3/2 B.C. for the birth of Christ" (Handbook of Biblical Chronology, p. 289).

As we have seen, there is a remarkable consensus of opinion between the above authorities for the year 3/2 B.C. for the birth of the Messiah. This, of course, dovetails with the evidence we have presented for a Fall 3 B.C. birth. Apart from the above, there are other early Christian writers (no doubt acquainted with the writings of Josephus) who regard the period 3 to 2 B.C. as the time of the nativity.


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